The Guardian: Racial profiling – in your home and in your name

The Guardian: Racial profiling – in your home and in your name

I have a piece in The Guardian today, about why white people need to realize that racial profiling happens all around them – and in their name:

Most white people in New York live their daily lives without experiencing racial profiling, without even seeing it; until a few months ago, I had never seen a person stopped and frisked. But if you live in a doorman building and have friends who aren’t white, that profiling becomes more visible. Most importantly, living in such a building, you start to see what so many people of colour already know: racial profiling in its various forms is done to “protect” white people – to shield “us” from “them”. In a doorman building, what is implicit outside becomes obvious, and impossible to avoid: this racism is being done in my name.

The doormen who work downstairs are uniformly polite and obliging (to me, at least). But the pattern is clear: they let my white guests come and go as they please, even ones they’ve never seen before. They stop my African-American friends, even ones who have visited on multiple occasions.

In his seminal work on doormen, Columbia Professor of Social Sciences Peter Bearman found that doormen use “homophily principles” to decide which guests should be announced. In other words, doormen expect guests to look like their hosts, and if they do not, their presence in the building may be questioned, or at least verified with the host. Additionally, Bearman observes, because doormen are recruited from within ethnic networks in which African Americans are poorly represented, “doormen are much less likely to admit blacks or other minority group members without announcing them first.” In this sense, then, my black guests have double outsider status – and as they stand in my lobby waiting for permission to do what my white friends do freely, I suspect they know it.

You can read the whole thing here.


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